Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967

Chapter 11: Ted Gold and Dave Gilbert: Roommates, 1967 (vi)

In early October 1967, whenever I found myself alone in the W.94th St. apartment, I usually would pull out from the bookcase an album from Ted’s record collection and put the record on the turntable. It was at this time that I really started listening over and over again to the Another Side of Bob Dylan album which Ted possessed. I liked the way Dylan sang about love relationships in this album and found his “All I Really Want To Do” song mirroring my own attitude towards love relationships with women, at this time. I went downtown to a movie theater on E. 34th St. and I saw the Don’t Look Back movie, which was a film of Dylan’s English tour of a few years before. Although Dylan’s refusal to speak out strongly against the war in Viet Nam disturbed me, I still idolized him in Fall 1967. He still seemed like an alternative bohemian male model to the straight corporate/straight academic male models 1960s white male youth had been programmed to emulate by the U.S. Establishment’s socializing process.

Around this time, Dave worked with Naomi in doing political organizing at both the New School and at the New York SDS Regional Office. Naomi was from an Old Left family in Troy, New York. She was very intellectual and politically aware and committed, and she seemed quite dedicated, sweet and easy-to-get-along with. Long before most liberal Democratic Party women were raising the issues of U.S. male chauvinism and sexism in the U.S., Naomi was writing articles for Ramparts, New Left Notes and the Guardian on this topic. She generally wore jeans and didn’t use lipstick or make-up.

In the 1960s, there weren’t enough professional job slots available for the increasing number of U.S. multiversity female graduates. A woman college graduate who either couldn’t find a husband/boyfriend to support her after college, or just chose to remain single, usually had to work at a menial clerical/typist or secretarial job in order to support herself, unless she landed a social worker, professional nursing or public school teaching job.

Another New Left activist woman at the New York SDS Regional Office, Sue Sutheim, was involved romantically with Dave, around this time. Like Naomi, Sutheim was very intellectual and politically committed. But she seemed less personally warm than Naomi. Sutheim appeared to be in her mid-to-late-20s, and was especially active in attempting to build an organization of young radical professionals—MDS.

Like Naomi, Sutheim seemed more sexually open than most Barnard women. At the time she was romantically involved with Dave, she was also openly having what appeared to be an even more intense love affair with another New York Regional SDS/MDS activist named Bob Gottlieb. Women who worked at the New York SDS Regional Office appeared to be experimenting more not only with grass and drugs, but also with having multiple sexual and multiple love relationships.

Sutheim seemed to combine a radical political commitment and lifestyle with an interest in developing deep emotional relationships. I admired her for being willing, unlike many other U.S. women at this time, to experiment sexually with different men, without pressuring her male lovers to marry her or to be monogamous. Like Naomi, Sutheim seemed to be a strong, independent, non-traditional woman who was intent on challenging 1960s U.S. male supremacy, long before other women got hip to their sexual oppression. And like Naomi, Sutheim showed me that there were Movement women in their 20s who wished to live differently than their more repressed mothers had lived.

After Ted began to spend all his nights at Trude’s apartment, Gottlieb ended up sleeping some nights on the bed in Ted’s room. By the end of October 1967, however, he appeared to be spending his nights at Sutheim’s apartment and Sutheim seemed to be more romantically involved with Gottlieb than she was with Dave. But all three remained close friends, worked politically together and smoked grass as a stoned threesome, either in our apartment or downtown. Gottlieb also attracted another New York Regional SDS/MDS activist named Marge Piercy. Although Marge was being supported by her computer programmer husband, Robert Shapiro, she became romantically involved with Gottlieb for a time. And when Gottlieb soured on her, she suddenly became a female separatist in her politics.

Gottlieb was skillful at flirting with and flattering Movement women, in order to get them to do Movement shitwork for him. He was an articulate, intellectual New Leftist who was action-oriented enough to be more politically appealing than Marxist academic professors who were not activists. He had longer than average hair, was around 6-feet tall and wore glasses. He usually dressed in jeans and a work shirt and not in a white shirt, a tie and a suit. Gottlieb had attended Reed College in Oregon, which was an experimental college.

Gottlieb related in an elitist fashion to younger Movement people who were still undergraduates. But Gottlieb boasted that he, along with John and Dave, was responsible for “bringing Marxism” into what had previously been a reformist, non-Marxist New York SDS Regional Office. Like Sutheim and Dave, Gotllieb was a strong believer in Dave’s “New Working-Class Theory.” And, as the driving force behind MDS attempts to organize and radicalize young professionals, Gottlieb was putting his daily life activity behind his theoretical politics. Both Gottlieb and Sutheim criticized ‘the culture of consumerism” often in private conversation, in public political debate and in their writings.